Planet Earth II – Jungles

 

Planet Earth II – David Attenborough + BBC

Episode 3 : Jungles

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This is more than likely going to be a slightly longer post as the ‘Jungles’ episodes are always my favourite… Earth is the only planet we know of where life, in any form exists, and in the jungles it does so in abundance. The jungle is Eden. It covers less than six percent of the earths surface but its home to half of all the plants and animals on land.

Jungles have just the right amount of light, water and nutrients, and they have had every day for a millennia. “To survive here, life has to face one major challenge. A unique one as so many landscapes are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Paradise is crowded, life fills every niche.” Every jungle animal has to find their own way to survive in the most competitive place on earth. They are worlds created by lush tropical vegetation. What i particularly enjoy about these episodes is the richness and variety of life we see. As expected there’s some stunning tracking shots through the trees.

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& some incredible close up shots taken in new ways with drones.

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We meet what is possibly the most adorable creature on the planet, Spider monkeys. Who spend their entire lives high up in the trees, this little female is only a few months old.

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What struck me about them was how tactile and affectionate they are with eachother. When this young one gives her father a hug, she wraps every appendage around him, including her tail.

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We meet some ‘Draco’ Lizards, pronounced the same as the name ‘Draco Malfoy’ from Harry Potter. Who are speedy little things.

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& who have an interesting way of warding off others.

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But who can also do something incredible when threatened and need to escape, they fly. Ever the eloquent Attenborough puts it, “Only in the jungle can you find lizards that can soar like dragons.”

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Jungles are the richest places on earth because of one remarkable fact, they make their own weather. Every day water rises from the surface of the leaves as vapor, its as if the trees breath out clouds, they gather over the forests until finally they burst and a downpour of rain ensues. I find this fact a little mind-blowing, if nature is left alone it can literally nourish and replenish itself? Seems humanity is literally its largest problem.

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We meet some powerful and breathtaking jaguars, the supreme jungle predator. Interestingly there are a lot more female jaguars than males in the regions explored in this series.

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We’re also shown an interesting problem that the jungle inhabitants face, how to tell what is plant and what is prey. Its a game of hide and seek that can be won or lost in the blink of an eye. David Recounts “The long contest of predator and prey has produced mimicry of astounding accuracy : a leaf-tailed gecko masquerading as lichen.”

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Following this thread we also meet a ‘Glass frog’, who’s almost entirely see through, and no bigger than your fingernail.

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Things can be tricky to spot if they blend in with the background so seamlessly.

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Another phenomenal structure in this show is to portray the topic of the episode at all times of the day, we explore the nighttime and fungi that prosper in the dark. Forgive me for the amount of GIFs i made of the different types of fungus, i was actually take aback by some of them and just had to fit them in. They start with some simple but elegant structures.

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And then took a turn to intriguing and quirky with ones that have fruiting bodies that reach upwards.

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not before finishing with the grand finale – glow in the dark mushrooms, genuinely. These exist. This type of fungi, as it grows, becomes luminous, the reason for which was unknown till now. Scientists studying the brightest fungi in the world, think they may have an answer. Attenborough tells us that “Like a beacon, the light attracts insects who once they come into contact with the fungi are covered in its spores and as the insects move about the jungle they carry the spores to other parts of the forest.”

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This episode continues to amaze, as the next turn we take in our journey looks at the spectacles that have been produced due to the competition in the jungle, which forces animals to specialize in every aspect of their life, including, courtship. This has produced some of the most beautiful and elaborate displays on the planet. The aptly named ‘Birds of Paradise’.

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The one we’re shown in detail is the “Wilsons Bird of Paradise”. Brightly coloured and about the size of a sparrow, they do something quite incredible. In order to stand out to impress a female, he begins to tidy up a certain area of around two feet, he clears away all green leaves or twigs or anything that could detract from his display.

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For the female to see him at his best he needs her to perch directly above his stage. Then when she is looking directly down at him, he reveals a display that is meant for her eyes only. “The brightest ‘leaf’ in the forest.” each animal must find its own way of surviving the competition of the jungle.

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The episode’s main attractions are interspersed with shots of a collection of the different animals that endure the jungles.

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Giving us a snapshot of the uncomprehendable varieties life can create, when given the time and space.

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These forests in Madagascar are home to one of our distant cousins. The Indri. They are so closely adapted to living here, that now they can live nowhere else. They were far from shy with the camera men being close.

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As is standard in any Planet Earth Episode, the message : “For them and the millions of animals that call this their home, the jungle is a sanctuary. But this is changing, even in the ten years since the head of this family was born one million hectares of the rainforest have been destroyed in Madagascar alone, and with it, half the Indri’s families that once lived there. The local people say the Indri’s are our brothers and their song is a call to remind us that once we too depended on the jungle.” This Eden is still a place of wonder and magic, something that is surely worth protecting.

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From the grounds

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to the skies

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This episode was ‘Jungles’, exploring the different varieties of life that exist, plants and animals alike. You get to see how they filmed some of the species in the “Planet Earth Diaries” boats were regularly used to get some slow-paced shots of the trees like this one. There are some damn stunning shots in every facet of this series, you feel consistently in awe of the world and Attenborough’s eloquent analysis of it. 

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We get to see that a lot of drones were used to get high up shots without the propellers of a helicopter disturbing the shots (ie. Like the mist in this one below)

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next week is ‘Deserts’ so keep an eye out!